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Down on the Farm: Who's got next?

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
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Do you remember the good ol' days of baseball? Like when the word "pitch count" didn't exist, closers would often go multiple innings to record saves and prospects were given time to develop in the minor leagues.

There's nothing wrong with change, and often change is a good thing. But now that teams are rapidly moving prospects through their farm system, it's getting tougher to guesstimate MLB debuts.

There was a time when a player would get drafted and it would be a few years before we would see him in the majors. Now, guys get drafted and months later they're donning big league uniforms.

This season, we have seen a pair of 2012 first-round picks -- Kevin Gausman and Michael Wacha -- and one second-round pick -- Alex Wood -- make their MLB debuts. Let's not forget that 2012 second-round pick Paco Rodriguez made his debut for the Dodgers last season.

The list goes on and on with players spending little time in the minors, hardly seeing time at the upper levels or even making the jump from the low minors. Some of the more notable names meeting the criteria have been Yasiel Puig, Anthony Rendon, Jose Fernandez and Carlos Martinez.

We truly live in a world where calling a prospect a long-term Fantasy keeper is taboo. And that means bench spots in seasonal formats are being occupied more by minor leaguers than true reserves. Everyone rather not miss out on the next great prospect and bypass a player that could pay immediate, but likely short-lived dividends.

Which leads us into the topic of who is among the next wave of prospects speeding through the minors that could be worth a bench spot in your league?

The Mariners have already begun the transition of bringing up their stars of tomorrow. Mike Zunino is calling games behind the plate, while Brad Miller and Nick Franklin are manning the middle infield. But the call-ups aren't likely to stop with those three.

We're anticipating starting pitchers Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker joining the Seattle rotation by season's end. The duo has a combined 19 Triple-A starts, but Hultzen would have likely already been in the majors had a shoulder injury not sidelined him for several weeks. Walker has tossed 11 shutout innings since his promotion from Double-A Jackson. I've been pushing Fantasy owners all season to stash Hultzen as an impact arm, but now I'm changing my tune about Walker, given his surge this season and the recent trend of unlikely promotions.

The Orioles' rotation certainly could use a boost, but look to outfielder Henry Urrutia to provide a lift to the team's offense in the second half. He was recently promoted to Triple-A Norfolk after the organization got a little more comfortable with his defensive and baserunning skills. However, Urrutia can rake. He hit .365 with a .550 slugging percentage and .983 OPS in 52 games at Double-A Bowie, and the Orioles can always stick him at DH if they feel he's too much of a liability in the outfield.

The Red Sox are trying to solidify the back-end of their rotation. Allen Webster hasn't panned out yet and while Felix Doubront has been much better as of late, if the Red Sox don't trust Rubby De La Rosa or Franklin Morales to help the rotation, then Boston could turn to Brandon Workman. After going 10-8 with a 3.50 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 25 starts last season, the right-hander is 8-2 with a 3.42 ERA and 1.19 WHIP between Double-A and Triple-A this season, while striking out a career-high 9.8 batters per nine innings. He has gone 3-1 with a 3.41 ERA in five starts since his promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket.

The Royals and White Sox are both under .500, but with plenty of games left they are still in the playoff hunt. Even if they fall out of the playoff chase, personnel moves could lead them to promote some of their top pitching prospects, particularly Kansas City's Yordano Ventura and Erik Johnson of the White Sox.

Ventura has struggled a bit since his promotion to Triple-A Omaha, posting a 4.94 ERA in 23 2/3 innings, but if the Royals trade soon-to-be-free-agent Ervin Santana, then Ventura could get the call. Remember, he was in the final pool of players vying for a spot in the rotation this spring.

Most Owned Minor Leaguers (as of 7/3)
Player % owned
1. Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Red Sox 50
2. Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals 43
3. Michael Wacha, SP, Cardinals 38
4. Billy Hamilton, OF, Reds 36
5. Ike Davis, 1B, Mets 32
6. Dan Straily, SP, Athletics 31
7. Travis d'Arnaud, C, Mets 30
8. Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins 28
9. Tyler Skaggs, SP, D-Backs 26
10. Trevor Bauer, SP, Indians 25

As for Johnson, the 2011 second-round pick is 9-2 with a 2.21 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 16 starts between Double-A and Triple-A. The White Sox are unlikely to make the playoffs, so it might be worth giving Johnson a taste of the majors in 2013 so he's ready to compete for a rotation spot next spring.

Lastly, Phillies third baseman Michael Young's name has been mentioned heavily in trade rumors. If the Phillies choose to be sellers at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, then Young is a strong candidate to be moved. If he's dealt, who replaces Young at the hot corner?

Cody Asche is a strong candidate since he's done well at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but I'm not convinced Maikel Franco wouldn't leapfrog Asche. After rivaling Miguel Sano as the top power hitter in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League (high Class A), Franco has been on a ridiculous tear since his promotion to Double-A Reading. He hit .431 with a .765 slugging percentage, four home runs and 11 RBI in his first 12 games. If Franco has star potential, then much like Johnson, the Phillies might not wait until next spring to give him a major-league audition.

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Player News
Fernando Rodney breaks franchise mark for saves
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:21 am ET) Mariners closer Fernando Rodney escaped a rough outing with the save Thursday night against the Angels in Anaheim.

Rodney allowed a solo home run to Hank Conger but struck out Tony Campana looking to end the game. He was charged with one run on one hit and no walks while striking out one in one inning of work, closing out a 3-1 victory. He now holds the franchise record with 46 saves on the year. He owns a 2.70 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP over 63 1/3 innings of work.

Wilin Rosario launches walkoff shot vs. D-Backs
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:16 am ET) Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario came up big at the plate Thursday night at home, launching a walkoff home run in the ninth to lift his team past the Diamondbacks.

Down one run, Rosaio took Addison Reed deep for a two-run home run with two outs in the ninth to end the game. Rosario also doubled in the second and added two singles. He finished 4 for 5 with a run scored and three RBI in a 7-6 victory. He is hitting .265 with 12 homers and 51 RBI over 359 at-bats.

Felix Hernandez fans 11 in a no-decision vs. Angels
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:04 am ET) Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez put together another gem but didn't receive any run support in a no-decision Thursday night against the Angels. The right-hander permitted three hits and two walks while striking out 11 over seven innings of work.

Over his last four starts covering 28 innings, Hernandez has allowed only three earned runs. He owns a 2.07 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP over 32 starts (226 innings). His next start will come Tuesday at Toronto.

Wade LeBlanc gives five-plus scoreless innings in spot start
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:00 am ET) Angels starting pitcher Wade LeBlanc wasn't a factor into the decision in a spot start on Thursday at home against Seattle. The left-hander permitted three hits and no walks while striking out three over 5 1/3 scoreless innings of work.

LeBlanc owns a 5.24 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP over 22 1/3 innings of work. It remains to be seen if he'll be needed for another start this season.

Cody Allen closes out Astros
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:55 am ET) Indians reliever Cody Allen struck out two and worked his way past a hit in a scoreless 13th inning for the save Thursday night against the Astros in Houston. He has converted 22 of 25 save chances, with a 2.03 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP over 66 2/3 innings of work.

Derek Jeter hits first home run of season at Yankee Stadium
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:48 am ET) Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter left the yard at home for the first time this season Thursday night against the Blue Jays.

Jeter took R.A. Dickey deep for a solo home run in the sixth inning inning, ending a streak of 158 at-bats without a home run. He finished 2 for 4 with a run scored and an RBI in a 3-2 victory. Jeter is hitting .250/.299/.303 with four homers and 41 RBI over 547 at-bats.

Robbie Erlin puts together solid outing vs. Phillies
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:41 am ET) Padres pitcher Robbie Erlin turned in a quality start in a win over the Phillies at home Thursday night, improving to 4-4 on the year. He permitted one run on five hits and no walks while striking out four over six innings of a 7-3 victory.

Erlin owns a 4.53 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP over 55 2/3 innings of work. If Tyson Ross is unable to make his next start, Erlin will like make another spot start on Tuesday against Colorado.

Kyle Kendrick issues five walks in loss to Padres
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:36 am ET) Phillies pitcher Kyle Kendrick had some command issues in a loss to the Padres in San Diego on Thursday, dropping to 9-13 on the year. He allowed three runs on six hits and five walks while striking out two over five innings of a 7-3 defeat.

Over his last three starts covering 18 1/3 innings, Kendrick has allowed nine earned runs. He owns a 4.73 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP over 31 starts (192 innings). His next start will come Wednesday in Miami.

Tsuyoshi Wada works through sore hammy in final start
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:30 am ET) Cubs pitcher Tsuyoshi Wada worked through a sore hamstring in a no-decision Thursday night at home against the Dodgers, per ESPN Chicago. He allowed one run on five hits and one walk while striking out five over five innings of an 8-4 defeat.

Over his last four starts covering 18 2/3 innings, Wada has allowed 10 earned runs. He confirmed after the game that this was his final start of the season. He finishes his first big-league season 4-3 with a 3.22 ERA over 12 starts.

Zack Greinke takes step back in no-decision
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:25 am ET) Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke took a step back in a no-decision to the Cubs in Chicago on Thursday. He coughed up four runs on nine hits and one walk while striking out five over five innings of work.

Over his last three starts covering 17 innings, Greinke has allowed six earned runs. He owns a 2.76 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP over 30 starts (189 1/3 innings). He will look to bounce back Tuesday at home against San Francisco.

 
 
 
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